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Elementary School Turns Leftover Cafeteria Food Into Take-Home Meals For Poor Kids Who Sleep Hungry

Elementary School Turns Leftover Cafeteria Food Into Take-Home Meals For Poor Kids Who Sleep Hungry

The pilot program allows the school cafeteria to provide eight meals over the weekend to school children with families in need of food.

It is important to ensure kids get enough food in the growing years, but what is also equally important is to make sure that food does not go waste. And that's exactly where South Bend-based non-profit Cultivate Culinary comes into the picture, reports USA Today

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An Indiana school district is taking the initiatives to ensure children have enough to eat, especially after school hours. The charity's board president, Jim Conklin told WSBT: "Mostly, we rescue food that's been made but never served by catering companies, large food service businesses, like the school system."

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Cultivate Culinary was founded in 2016 by Jim Conklin and Randy Ziolkowski, aiming to train workers in the culinary arts. Students from the Elkhart Community Schools are usually provided with breakfast and lunch at school, but on the weekends at home, they may be without food. And that's the reason the nonprofit is helping out the school students by providing them with weekend meals.

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Natalie Bickel, a part of the student services team at Elkhart, stated, "At Elkhart Community Schools, we were wasting a lot of food. There wasn't anything to do with the food. So they came to the school three times a week and rescued the food." She continued, "Over-preparing is just part of what happens. We take well-prepared food, combine it with other food and make individual frozen meals out if it."

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The two partners developed a pilot program that allows the school cafeteria to provide eight meals over the weekend to school children with families in need of food. These meals are "rescued" leftover food collected from over the week. The process involves the leftover being collected, frozen, and then packaged by Cultivate, following which it is delivered to the students every Friday. 

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Saundra Seward, a student who benefits from these meals, stated, “The meals are very convenient, good quality, and very delicious. I find that they have a great taste and are very filling. There isn’t anywhere that I could get an excellent meal such as this with the $15 in food stamps that I receive monthly. I am truly thankful for this program!” 

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Melissa Ramey, a representative from the Academy, added, “It’s making a big impact. I am proud of that. It was heartbreaking to hear that children go home on the weekends and that they don't have anything to eat." 

Currently, 20 students at the Elkhart school are beneficiaries of the pilot program. However, the charity hopes to bring in more students from various other schools, who struggle to get proper meals during the weekends. 

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Ensuring that school cafeterias do not waste food is an issue that has been highlighted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA has been combatting food waste in school by bringing in new strategies such as composting to help reduce waste.

When the pilot program was first announced, it met with cheers. The nonprofit, which spent over two years working to rescue excess food for charitable purposes, received global media attention for its initiative. 

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Even Twitter has been buzzing with the news of the pilot program. Many social media users have been hailing the project for its effort to reduce food wastage. " I love this so so much. Packaging leftover school lunches so kids can take home frozen meals for the weekend reduces food waste + feeds kids in need. Consider donating to Cultivate Culinary to help this lovely mission," a Twitter user said. 

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Meanwhile, another user said, "Here's to Cultivate Culinary School & Catering of Indiana for their Food Rescue efforts. Not just talking a talk, Cultivate is doing something noteworthy, and a whole lot more." 

The pilot program might only be helping 20 students right now, but it is truly remarkable and is only the start of something big. We sure hope that more needy students can avail this in other schools across the nation. And kudos and thank you Cultivate Culinary, for this lovely initiative! 

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